Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cool Mac Freeware

Another new feature that I would like to introduce into my blog is to do review of Mac-based software, be it freeware or otherwise, that I have used or tried, and would like to recommend to all of my readers. And no, i don't earn anything from them, although I won't mind donations though! :)

Here's my first one:

One of the problems that I have with the Mac interface is in the limited space available should I need to use the other 80% of the software available, you know the other 80% of which you would only use 20% of the time. Well RapidoStart from has got the answer for you. It enables users to organise their icons/applications, according to a selected set defined by the user. So you can set a group of applications for your photography and photoshopping jaunts, and another group for your serious work on analysis of data, and perhaps another set on other media applications. All of these will set on a layered interface that will not clutter your screen, because it will only show up when you press a keyboard shortcut, or a small button, both of which are non-intrusive in nature and can be defined by the user too. And best of all, its free! Take a look at my screenshot.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free training notes on integrating Picasa, Google Earth and Google SketchUp

I had the opportunity to train a group of 23 of my colleagues in the use of's and's timelining Web 2.0 tools, as well as the integrative use of Picasa and Google's free offerings of Earth and SketchUp. I hope it was a good awareness session for all of them, and hopefully they have enjoyed it, in as much as I have enjoyed and learned from the training and the materials preparation. Here's the training guide that I am currently making available free of charge to all netizens. Comments and feedback are most welcome. Do gmail me at irfandarian if you need the word copies of the guides.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Design is supposed to be?

I came across this article on the 4 fields of Industrial Design from the site, and I must say that it is one of the best piece that I've ever read. I'd just like to share it with my readers here, whether designers or not. Original article, with pictures, is here. Enjoy and be enlightened...

The 4 Fields of Industrial Design: (No, not furniture, trans, consumer electronics, & toys), by Bruce M. Tharp and Stephanie M. Tharp

You do what?

"So, you design factory machines? Is that what you mean?" Many of us have switched from calling ourselves "industrial designers" to saying that we are "product designers." But the difficulty grows if your design work does not fall squarely inside the commercial realm—the experimental stuff, the artsy stuff, or not-for-profit stuff.

The confusions are understandable. Not only has the profession never had its own television series with a catchy abbreviated title to predicate popular understanding (E.R., CSI: NY, L.A. Law, Dr. 90201), but the discipline is relatively young, immensely broad, and ever expanding. What is hard to reckon with, however, is the confusion that exists even within the profession of industrial design: What activities do product designers recognize, champion, or even legitimize? What are the frameworks around our practice, and how are those communicated to the outside world?
Design is pretty much a mess. Just try and make sense of the range of the terms floating around out there: user-centered design, eco-design, design for the other 90%, universal design, sustainable design, interrogative design, task-centered design, reflective design, design for well-being, critical design, speculative design, speculative re-design...

Design is a mess
The problem is that design is pretty much a mess. Just try and make sense of the range of the terms floating around out there: user-centered design, eco-design, design for the other 90%, universal design, sustainable design, interrogative design, task-centered design, reflective design, design for well-being, critical design, speculative design, speculative re-design, emotional design, socially-responsible design, green design, conceptual design, concept design, slow design, dissident design, inclusive design, radical design, design for need, environmental design, contextual design, and transformative design.

Without a compelling, indeed, taxonomic, way of organizing design activity, we are selling ourselves short; we not only have difficulty understanding the profession ourselves, but also in communicating to the world our potency, range, and potential impact. In the end, we seem scattered and "designy"—in a less-than-flattering sense of the word.

As academics responsible for making sense of this jumble for our students then, we feel like those professional bic-a-brac organizers you see on daytime talk shows, confronting the tumult of someone's bloated car garage. So after some long days and a dumpster-load of capabilities lists, here we present everything neatly ordered onto 4 shelving units. Behold the Design Garage—a categorizing of designed-object activity into four primary fields: Commercial Design, Responsible Design, Experimental Design, and Discursive Design. Let's take a closer look at each, focusing on the drivers, criteria for success, and primary intents:

Commercial Design
Commercial Design is what is commonly understood as industrial/product design and comprises the overwhelming majority of our professional activity. This is design work oriented toward, and driven by, the market. Success is largely defined in economic terms—sufficient return on investment. The primary intent of the designer is to create useful, useable, and desirable products that customers can afford and that generate adequate profit.

With the iPhone, we have what is rudimentarily a gadget, be it seductive in form and sophisticated in function. It has proven quite profitable for Apple, as even between the announcement of its sale in January 2007 and the first days in the store, their stock value increased 65%, and then up to a 135% total increase by the end of the year.

And beyond the realm of gadgetry, Phillipe Starck's Louis Ghost chair for Kartell sold over 200,000 units in 2006. Now selling for $410 at the MoMA store, this could represent over $80,000,000 in retail sales. While just a (highly profitable) chair, Starck includes an element of "concept" in its design, capturing the spirit of classic Louis XV chair, but in 21st Century polycarbonate plastic. Aside from this perhaps "artistic" quality and intellectual content, it is still an object that was designed using cutting edge industrial processes for a mass market, with the chief intent of producing profit for Kartell.

The primary (though not only) driver of Commercial Design is to make money.

Responsible Design
Responsible Design encompasses what is largely understood as socially responsible design, driven by a more humanitarian notion of service. Here the designer works to provide a useful, useable, and desirable product to those who are largely ignored by the market. Issues such as ethics, compassion, altruism, and philanthropy surround the work, be it for users in developing or developed countries. While Responsible Design can and often does have a relation to the market—being "commercially available"—its primary intent is not a maximization of profit, but instead to serve the underserved.

The XO laptop of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program is a prime example that has garnered a great deal of press in recent years. It is typical in that the device is commercially available (to governments and aid organizations), though it is not conventional in its means of distribution nor with its philanthropic intent.

Another example that helps make the distinction from Commercial Design is the Ableware one-handed cutlery set, which with the aid of a spring mechanism cuts a bite-sized piece of food and allows it to be skewered on fork tines with a simple downward motion. With this product, amputees and people with limited dexterity are better able to feed themselves and live more independently. While this is a product that exists on the market, the impetus was compassion—this object is not highly profitable as the target audience is fairly limited. The designer's primary intention was one of service.

(It may be helpful to compare Ableware to OXO Goodgrips, where Sam Farber wanted to create a commercially viable mass product line around more comfortable and grip-able handles. While initially inspired by his wife, he saw a market opportunity of "20 million Americans like Betsy who suffered from arthritis" and subsequently "interviewed retailers and buyers to identify the best-selling and most important items" for the first OXO products. Responsible products certainly can be profitable, but we doubt that if Farber had not seen such a viable business opportunity he would have proceeded with his project. As such, Ableware is a more pure example of Responsible Design, and we would classify OXO as Commercial Design—primary intent—but one that also has a strong secondary concern for service to a somewhat ignored market.)

The primary (though not only) driver of Responsible Design is to help those in need.

Experimental Design
Experimental Design represents a fairly narrow swath within the broad field of design, and its primary intention is exploration, experimentation, and discovery. Experimental Design is defined perhaps more by its process than its outcome. In its purest form it is not driven by an overly specific end-goal of application, but instead is motivated by a curiosity—an inquiry into, for example: a technology, a manufacturing technique, a material, a concept, or an aesthetic issue. Much of the work at MIT's Media Lab is fairly typical of this kind of design: technological investigations that are often only obtusely practicable and relevant to the immediate and everyday. Just as with Responsible Design, a marketable object may eventually result from an experimental project, especially after refinement and after it is directed at a specific market. But the primary intent of Experimental Design is to explore possibilities with less regard for serving the market.

Front Design's Animals Project
Popular Swedish design group, Front Design, created their Animals Project as a way of exploring the possibilities of a non-humanly-mediated production process: "We asked animals to help us [design products]. 'Sure we'll help you out,' they answered. 'Make something nice,' we told them. And so they did."

What resulted were everyday objects: wallpaper that was "decorated" by a gnawing rat, a lamp cast from a rabbit's burrow, wall hooks that were formed by constricting snakes, a lampshade created after recording a fly's path around a light bulb, a vase created by casting the impression of a dog's leg in deep snow, and a table who's top is patterned by the paths of wood consuming beetles. None of these everyday products were commercialized; they were not intended to be viable products, but instead the product-form was the means through which they investigated ideas of randomness and mediation within the context of mass-production and everyday objects.

The primary (though not only) driver of the Experimental Design is to explore.

Discursive Design
Discursive Design refers to the creation of utilitarian objects whose primary purpose is to communicate ideas—they encourage discourse. These are tools for thinking; they raise awareness and perhaps understanding of substantive and often debatable issues of psychological, sociological, and ideological consequence. Discursive Design is the type of work that is generally less visible in the marketplace (though it can certainly exist there), but rather is most often seen in exhibition, print, and film. This is where design rubs up most closely against art. Importantly, however, these are objects of utility that carry ideas; in order to be considered design rather than art, they function (or could function) in the everyday world, but their discursive voice is what is most important and ultimately their reason for being.

The Placebo Project by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby is a strong example of Discursive Design, where they wanted to raise awareness and debate regarding the role and costs of technology in contemporary life through the topic of Hertzian space—the engulfing fields of invisible electromagnetic waves generated by electrical devices. One object from the series is the Compass Table, which is an ordinary, unadorned wooden table whose top surface has been embedded with twenty-five simple, navigational compasses. The table functions as any other table would. However, when, for example, a cell phone sitting on the table rings, the compass needles begin to dance and make visible the electromagnetic waves that enter into the home and surround its occupants.

Another more literal example is with Brazilian designer, Rafael Morgan's Indigestive Plates. These are classic ceramic dinner plates that have a message about poverty and hunger printed in thermochromatic ink. At room temperature the plate seems conventional, but when a dinner guest begins to finish their hot meal, they are confronted with a message such as: "Every day 16,000 children die of hunger-related causes." Morgan imagines "what would happen if we disguise some of [these] plates in an expensive snob restaurant...or maybe in some important political meeting?" Here a product offers typical utility, but is foremost designed to instigate and quite literally carry a provocative message.

The primary (though not only) driver of Discursive Design is to express ideas.

The Overlap
In presenting the aforementioned product examples from the four fields, we chose more "pure" versions of each. As mentioned, this framework is based upon the primary intention of the designer, yet we fully recognize the reality of multiple motivations. It important to emphasize that the categories are not entirely distinct from one another—there is overlap.

In fact, it is rare for any product to be "pure," in the sense that it is a result of a single intention (e.g., profitability, service, experimentation, or voice). Most products are the result of multiple intentions, like OXO's interest in commercially successful mass-products that also serve the dexterously challenged.

A strong example of "impurity," or more appropriately, "hybridity" would be the Hug salt and pepper shakers designed by Alberto Mantilla. They are very successful commercially, and yet have a strong and intentional discursive voice. These are two shakers abstractly anthropomorphized, which differ only in color—one white and one black. The shakers, with their stubby arms, nest together appearing to hug each other. As described by the designer, "[Their] very nature...connotes brotherhood. The bold use of black and white suggests that we are all brothers and sisters on this planet and we need to treat each other with kindness, compassion and respect." To truly understand these as either a commercial object or a discursive object, it would be necessary to understand the primary intention of the designer, which cannot always be read from the objects—especially in hybrids. Along with this overlap, it should also be emphasized that all four fields represent relative- rather than ultimate-states; objects range in their commercial-, exploratory-, responsible-, and discursive-capacity.

So what?
It might be easy to respond to this conceptualization of four fields as an interesting contribution to design theory, but is it actionable in the "real" complex work of design practice? As authors/academics/designers who confront daily the theory/practice divide ourselves, we feel confident that there are important implications of such a framework for designers, the profession, and the consumers of design.

1. First, we know from experience with our students and many seasoned practitioners that there is a sense of comfort and even relief that comes from the legitimization of the range of their design work/ideas. There are many professionals who do "side work"—considering it "conceptual" and sometimes hiding it or sheepishly refering to as "design-art" on their websites. (This was the case at one point for Scott Wilson and Mike and Maaike, for example.) This four-field approach offers formal acknowledgement, and challenges the dominant legacy of 20th-century industrial design with its inextricable link to markets and its focus on "problem solving."

2. Similarly, once the range of design work is recognized and "sanctioned," forces can rally around it and move it toward full potential. In many ways this has happened in the last decade with Responsible Design. We now understand what it is, how it relates to the profession, and corporate pro-bono initiatives and groups like Project H are understood, championed, and are becoming more mainstream. We imagine that once the IDSA adds to their professional interest sections Discursive Design and Experimental Design groups, we will see the same kind of advances that have occurred since their establishment of responsible design sections such as Universal Design and Design for the Majority.

3. Since this framework is based upon design intention, its structure can help designers better understand and focus their projects. The fields help the designer get straight on their overall intention and how overlap or hybridity might help or hurt, as well as how the context of use/consumption comes into play.

4. Professionally, this scheme also helps Industrial/Product Design communicate with the world that it engages. Once we understand the various intentions and roles that we can take on, the better we can clarify and be taken as seriously as we often wish we would be. Those who work in staunchly commercial realms can easily distinguish their activity from the other forms, and vice-versa. Experimental Design or Discursive Design, which can resemble art or mere frivolity, have a means of expressing distinction and value in their activities.

5. The formal inclusion of other modes of design beyond the commercial moves us beyond the role of handmaiden to industry; our profession is seen as being able to serve along broader intellectual and social lines. It helps establish designers as important local and global citizens as well as influential cultural agents.

6. With this framework, consumers of design have a more established basis for understanding intentionality and therefore a basis for evaluation. Experimental and discursive work are often erroneously subjected to the same measures of success as commercial work (blog commentary is notorious for this). When consumers are aware of designers' intentions, then more effective communication results: the designer is better satisfied because an object's goals are understood, and the consumer can focus more precisely on what value they may extract from the work.

7. And finally, the consumer can see their role shift from a position of passivity (when striking an all-too-common commercial posture) to a more active engagement in work that intends on engaging the intellect or prompting debate.

Names and frameworks are powerful. Our hope is that understanding the design landscape through these four, simple categories—Commercial Design, Responsible Design, Experimental Design, and Discursive Design—will help the profession, our "consumers," and ourselves better understand design activity and ultimately its potential in an increasingly complex world of ideas and objects.

Educated as a mechanical engineer, industrial designer, and sociocultural anthropologist, Dr. Bruce M. Tharp (bruce.tharp[at]core77[dot]com), is an assistant professor of Designed Objects at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). He and his wife Stephanie Tharp (snmunson[at]uic[dot]edu), Associate Professor of Industrial Design at the University of Illinois-Chicago, are currently working on a book project, entitled Discursive Design. In addition to their academic work, they have a studio, materious, through which they create across all four fields of designed objects.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Designing literally

I would love to start a section in my blog whereby I would showcase some quirky design ideas, whether still in concept or in production, which I hope my readers will find interesting. And no, you don't need to have a level 5 DQ to appreciate them. :)

Here's my first one, the "Hand"Wrench by Paul Julius Martus:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I would like to read this...

An interesting book, that will definitely be amongst my personal shelves once it is available locally. Read the reviews, and i am sure the designer in you will agree. [Original post taken from here]

Wired to Care, by Dev Patnaik with Peter Mortensen
Posted by: Robert Blinn

The concept of "needsfinding" seems unique to our consumer culture. True needs like air, sleep or hunger announce themselves with neurochemical fury, tearing animals away from what they think they should be doing and dragging them into the immediacy of their body. So when we industrial designers talk about the customer's undiscovered needs and how our products can address them, we should admit to ourselves that needsfinding, as we know it, is an oxymoron. For most of corporate America, resonating with their customers is really more about finding things their clients didn't know they wanted rather than needed.

For some clients, though, the issue of wants versus needs does begin to blur. In their book their book Wired to Care on customer empathy, Dev Patnaik with Peter Mortensen wisely begins with the example of Patty Moore, a young industrial designer who wandered out into the city streets with a fake white wig, earplugs, blurry glasses and a cane. For Patty, the needsfinding journey was about discovering what parts of the modern world were incompatible with old age. No doubt the city was filled with plenty of other real elderly women who were perfectly capable of navigating, but it took her Harrison Bergeron outfit of handicaps to make Patty realize just how hard walking a mile in those shoes might have been. What Patnaik has done is realize that the "needsfinding" exercises that industrial designers do that seem so focused on objects and products are really about people and empathy. So while empathy and companionship aren't exactly the most primitive of needs on Maslow's Hierarchy, they are among the most human, and frankly, a little humanity is something that most companies could use a little more of.

Business books these days tend to take a page from Malcolm Gladwell, structuring themselves as a series of chapters that read like individual anecdotes or short stories, but all revolve around a common theme. Wired to Care shares this format, and touches on examples with which industrial designers and many businesspeople should already be familiar. Once again, we hear how Betsey Farber's experience with hard and narrow tools led her to create OXO Good Grips, and about how Harley Davidson turned itself around by focusing on bike culture rather than bike manufacture. I was impressed that even though I read a lot of business books, Patnaik surprised me with some fresh examples.

Instead of simply cataloging the (late 90s) rise of Starbucks, he prefaced his discussion of the coffee chain by focusing on how Maxwell House had slowly degraded their coffee over time by replacing Arabica beans with Robusta due to supply and cost pressure. They'd devalued their own product almost imperceptibly over time and slowly lost touch with their customers while doing so. Likewise, instead of simply talking about the Apple juggernaut and waxing philosophical about the iPod, Patnaik talks about Apple successes through the failures of Microsoft. Talking first about the Xbox, which was a smashing success for Microsoft, he then addresses the Zune. The Zune was/is Microsoft's competition with the iPod for the mp3 market, but it has not faired nearly as well. Amazingly, however, Patnaik tells us that the Xbox and the Zune had the same design team. The Zune failed and the Xbox succeeded because the design team consisted of hard core gamers. Because they were their own audience for the Xbox, they didn't need empathy or needsfinding. Sadly, that didn't hold for the Zune, and Apple's careful development and design process left them in the cold.

On the strength of anecdotes alone, I'd put Wired to Care ahead of many comparable books because the case studies included haven't already been hashed over in the popular press. What really sets it apart, though, is the science at the end that pulls it all together. Patnaik spends a full thirty pages exploring the scientific underpinnings of the success stories he's included, with details on mirror neurons and the influences of the limbic system on purchasing decisions. In some ways the concepts are almost reminiscent of the fears about subliminal messages from the sixties and seventies, except that they work. Fortunately, the only way for a company to convincingly act empathetic is to actually be empathetic, and that's good news for us all.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inculcating Design Maturity

One of the key challenges that I am relishing currently is in how to inculcate a sense of Design Maturity amongst my young charges. And I am not even talking about a Level 5 Design Nirvana DQ, or anything just below that, suffice to say that if I am able to make a significant section of them be aware of what design is all about, I think I would be happy already.

Design Maturity in this context does not try to make them total design critiques, or for that matter, designers of products that are superlatively wow! What I have in mind, and I hope to be able to achieve, is to get them to realise the importance and rudiments of design, and about how design in itself is something that permeates every section of their lives, whether incidental or accidental. My objective is clearly to enable them to lead themselves on to a higher level of DQ, should they want or be motivated to, but at the very basics, they must be at least be equipped with the basic capacity 'to see, more than look, and to listen more than hear'!

With the few experimental things that I am trying out within and out of the classrooms this year, I hope to be able to enlighten myself on what makes my young charges tick, where design is concerned, and perhaps, just perhaps, be an enabler for me to become a much better educator, professionally and personally. I hope to be able to get my blog readers posted on this, more so to get some reviews and feedback, and hopefully, just hopefully, the intellectual discussions that follow online can be a platform to greater heights for all those who are involved.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

28 different ways of screwing...

And just to lighten up the rather sombre/serious note in my last few entries of my blog, here's one that I found rather...well, perplexing in itself, as I don't realise that there are THAT many ways of screwing...ehem, and I mean that in the literal sense. :)
[Taken from site]

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The need to work towards a more sustained redundancy

My significant other has just started working back in her old line, which is in social work, and never is there a really busy time for our fellow Singaporeans than now, when the economy of the country is really battering those who are not ready, or never ever ready, with the worst case scenario that they can ever end up in in this island state. Having to deal with cases after cases of family that is in dire straits of help, whether financial, social, or both, it is heartening to note that even in this depressing state of the economy, the country's management has repeatedly and consistently make it a point to assist the less-privileged and the less-fortunate, with an ever increasing array of goodies, that both seek to help for those who can't help themselves, or to provide those that are more able, a leg up in enabling them to 'learn how to fish'.

In fact I have seen this slow but sure shift in assistance policies that are mostly classified in the latter category, offering those who really need help, to help themselves with the eventual aim that they may be able to wean themselves out of the vicious cycle of a crutch mentality. I guess at times it is NOT easy for one who has been receiving aid, to get themselves into this mental model that what they are receiving are aid that comes with strings attached, but I guess it is a necessary pre-condition so that the society, especially those who does have the tendency to abuse such a welfare system, will be better off eventually, much like what the title of my post suggest.

But on the other side of the fence, I am not too sure though whether this is something that all our self-help groups (SHG's) are working towards to. Paradoxically shouldn't our SHG's be working towards their own demise, towards perhaps a state of affairs where in actuality their very state of existence is questioned, not because of abuse or anything, but more so because they have been able to shift the society towards a more socially sustainable state of being? In actual fact, in my opinion their only need to be around can only be justified if they have been able to sufficiently transform themselves to be beyond just the mere givers of aid, to perhaps to an organisation that looks at how help, if any can be given in a more sustainable manner, and perhaps to look at reducing the number of aid receivers, and increase the number who gives!

Which also brings me to the other argument on the yearly zakat, the compulsory tithe that every responsible Muslim should be contributing to, that has, over the years, been increasing in numbers. This is definitely good news, a great testament perhaps to our greater social awareness to help the others, and perhaps could be due to to a greater resurgence in gong back to the fundamentals of being a Muslim. But on the other side of the scale, we are also seeing more people receiving I am not questioning their qualifications to receive aid, I mean if they are able to meet the criteria of aid, I am all for it. What I do worry is that there seems to be an ever increasing number of aid receivers, and I am not talking about those who are really deserving, but of the likes like the 21-year old health young man, who just got married recently, and is not able to sufficiently provide for the family because of a few reasons that I should not elaborate. I mean seriously I do believe that there is indeed a certain element of welfarism in the disbursement of the zakat, but shouldn't there also be a certain degree of a sustainable social element that we, as a community can think of to ensure that this is non-existent in the future at all? Hmmm, I guess only a greater degree of social awareness and effort will be able to pull us through to that state of being...!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The youthful socio-economic dilemma: A malay perspective

It has been quite a while that this particular issue has been stirring in my head, and I guess that there is never a better time for me to lay out this issue, in as clear a manner as I possibly can, other than now...a particularly trying time for perhaps a significant portion of my community, given their rather seemingly perpetual vulnerability to the torrents of economic ups and downs.

It is indeed a seemingly scary phenomena that there is this underlying need for parents, and even educators like myself, to be very culturally aware of this state of needing to maintain a basic level of upkeep amongst our youths, especially the youths of my community. It is of no surprise that a significant portion of our youths are engaging themselves very actively in their own economic endeavours, and doing it not so much for the sole purpose of just earning to better themselves, but more so in needing to be permanently engaged in this enterprise more so so that they are able to maintain a standard of living, whether imagined or otherwise, that they are accustomed to. I do realise that at times it can't be helped that with the ever constant pressures from both their social circles, and the society at large, for these youths to be caught in the wave of consumerism and the likes, but seriously if our teenagers are seemingly pressured to be engaged in manning MacDonalds' counters just so that they can maintain their lifestyle of having the latest handphone gadgets, mp3 players, the latest fashionable streetwear...paid with a premium here due to this niggling need to be different, and lastly, being engaged in becoming delivery boys for KFC and Pizza Hut due to the need to, ironically, be able to pay off the loans on their motorbikes and the seems at times we do need to come out with a mental revolution of sorts for these youths before they are swept away with this phenomena. I feel sad at times that as the youths of the community is getting to be more intellectually intelligent in their IQ's it seems quite sad though that they do not seem to have this mental toughness to perhaps move away from being engaged in more permanent economic engagements that are perhaps more in tune with the virtues of being employed so that they can be exposed to social virtues like thrift and the likes, of being able to make it on their own, and being proud of what they are doing, and choosing to do these things because they want to perhaps be more engaged in character building, rather than using these as a pretext and in actuality only using it as a front to better themselves in an economic capacity, in a less than ethical way, just to maintain a minimum level for subsistence.

But seriously, is there a way out of this though? Is it all that bad? I refuse to think that this is the all and be all kind of situation, because being an optimist myself, and having worked before while I was still in school, there can be a silver lining out of all these! Can there be one? Will there be one? I do think so! How? I don't really know, but I guess I can find the answers if I do some deeper understanding of the whole situation. Or perhaps my previous posts on how the 'Flatness' is moving on to the younger demographics could provide me with one answer! Perhaps it might just be the answer that could help us along to provide us with the impetus for that paradigm shift! Hmmmm.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Of believing and trusting

I came across this conclusion over these a couple of weeks ago that, there is indeed a significant difference between believing somebody...and trusting him. More importantly is that it doesn't mean that when I don't believe the statements that are made by a particular person about something, that I don't completely trust him at all. It is just that when it comes to this thing about trust, there is this degree of morality and character trait that is involved, a little something that perhaps speaks volume about one's innate character and perhaps even his underlying philosophy and principles!

Believing on the other hand, involves, more often than not, a superfluous view of things that perhaps will not, I think, impinge on a person's moral standings.

Which brings me to my view that at times, when I give a funny look at you when are telling me something, please don't take it to heart. I might just not believe whatever bullshit that you are saying, but that doesn't mean that I am thinking any lesser of you, or for that matter, distrust you completely. But then again, if you choose to continue on to ramble in a disbelieving manner over a period of time, I guess it will eventually affect my trust level of you! Hmmmm...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Experiencing the 'Flatness'

In one of my previous posts, I did mentioned about my thoughts on Thomas Friedman's 'The World is Flat', and about how the real scenarios that are painted in the book, although it seems to be a little too distant for us here in Singapore to fathom, are already taking place all over the world. Well, you know what, I am sure that the employment scenario over here in Singapore is also evolving to what is stated in the book.

In my previous posts, I did mentioned about how the menial tasks that are usually done by locals are slowly but surely taken over by 'expats'. And mind you, we are just not talking about the regular jobs like cleaning and health-industry related jobs here, but more so in other sectors, which used to hire local youths! So what does that leave us? The only sure way now for our youths, and I am talking about people like those of my young charges, to get jobs is for them to also 'upgrade' themselves...or even, to get jobs that are paying them even lesser! Horrifying...yes! But that is how the world is evolving now. It looks like a doomsday scenario when even our kids are not able to get a job behind the counter of a local MacDonalds', but seriously, that is what is happening right now!

Which brings me to my experiences during my recent hiatus to Europe, in which I purposely went on an eating binge at the local fast food outlets of each of the major cities that I visited. And guess what, each of these outlets are manned by what I can consider, non-locals...except for the one in Switzerland. But bearing in mind that the latter is an independent state out of the EU, that situation is more of an outlier than the norm. My point here is that, if things are really evolving as per what the book has mentioned, and if the local employment scenario is to follow with the likes of the industrialised countries, it will be just a matter of time when the local fast food outlet counters, instead of being manned by the likes of a student or an ex-student of mine, I will be instead be greeted 'Good Morning' in an English heavily-accented with Russian perhaps, or worse still, greeted by sign/hand language by a mainland China Chinese, who does not understand English, just like how I experience it when I went to Jalan Kayu for dinner yesterday? :(

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Making design more meaningful

Being my first post for the new year, of both the Islamic and Gregorian calendars, I would like to kick start the year by going back to the basics of design...about how one can make design, or the design experience, a more meaningful one. And I say this within the context of someone who is teaching design to a class of early teens, who might not really see the depth of design, but is somehow or rather very much aware about the aesthetics and specifications of the products that they have, and have this equivocal view about these 'designerly' things that perhaps adults like myself feels so duh!

For this year, I would love to see and implement something that will make design more meaningful...perhaps more humbling in its experience and eventuality, perhaps even more inclusive in nature to those around the designers...not something that is exclusive, and definitely not something that is just superficial in nature. Perhaps something that will rock the senses, and bring forth our intellectual capacity to question and even tickling our innate 'design quotient' or design intelligence, and perhaps even bring us forth to design nirvana, albeit momentarily!

And as I was reflecting through my programs for the new set up that I will be part of in the middle of the year, the thing that is niggling positively in my mind is on how we move away from design topics that can quite passe at times, to sort of like maintain the program's freshness, whilst at the same time also providing my future design charges with the necessary rigours that will enable them to appreciate all the rudiments of Art, Design, Media and Technology, the field that I will head up after June. It was quite insightful for me to review through some ideas for these, but at times it is never easy or worse still, not one iota of thought came into being. But I do hope as I firm up some of these ideas, though untested, it is still going to be something that is different...but not necessarily different for the sake of just being different, but more so, being differentiated from the crowd so that we can set the tone, the pace, and the depth of how design education ought to move on.